Israeli Film Fest to Kick of Thursday in Los Angeles
by Rania Richardson
The Israel Film Festival will kick off its 20th-annual event on Thursday with a gala awards presentation hosted by Jason Alexander and the west coast premiere of writer/director Savi Gabizon's "Nina's Tragedies."
The winner of 11 Israeli Film Academy prizes including best picture, best director, and best actress, "Nina's Tragedies" follows a sensitive teenager smitten with his beautiful Aunt Nina. The film was recently acquired by Wellspring Media for release in early 2005.
The festival will screen 37 Israeli films including features, documentaries, television dramas, retrospectives, and student shorts, in Los Angeles through May 13. The festival will travel to New York in the summer and Miami and Chicago in the fall.
The opening night awards presentation will honor Gale Anne Hurd with a visionary award for her work producing a multitude of blockbusters including "The Punisher" and "Terminator" as well as some independent films such as "The Waterdance." Norman Jewison ("Fiddler on the Roof," "Moonstruck") will receive a lifetime visionary award. The humanitarian award will go to Arthur Hiller ("The Out-of-Towners," "Love Story"). Israeli producer Eitan Evan ("Summer of Avia," "Under the Domin Tree") will receive the cinematic award. "Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi," his new family drama directed by Shemi Zarhin, will be the festival's centerpiece.
This year's film programming covers a variety of subjects. "As the festival has evolved over the past 20 years, so have the themes and topics of Israeli filmmakers by moving beyond Arab/Israeli issues and into daily topics of love, relationships, and everyday living," festival founder/director Meir Fenigstein said in a prepared statement.
Highlights among the features include "No Longer 17," a drama about the fears of aging by Isaac Zepel Yeshurun, "Life Is Life," a story of love and writer's block by Michal Bat-Adam, and "Sima Vaknin, Witch," Dror Shaul's comedy about a woman with psychic powers. "A Life's Work," Gadi Nemet's drama on the collapse of kibbutz ideals, is among the television dramas to be showcased.
Documentary subjects include rappers in Israel in Anat Halachmi's "Channels of Rage," the first Israeli astronaut in Naftaly Gliksberg's "Columbia: The Tragic Loss," and a medical condition among immigrants in "The Ringworm Children" by David Belhassen and Asher Hemias.
The festival's closing night event will honor the passing of Israeli filmmaker Rafi Bukai with a screening of his film "Avanti Popolo," the 1986 Oscar entry for best foreign film. It will be followed by a screening of "One Small Step," the director's final production.